Have Garry Kasparov’s comments galvanised Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand? Well, only the world champion and his challenger can answer this question, but since the time Kasparov took digs at the two contestants, particularly on Anand, the championshipstarted showing the spark that was woefully missing.
“…both players are cautious. Understandably, playing against Anand, Gelfand is trying to concentrate and take care. Anand has obviously lost interest in the game, this being something for which he has always been noted. Anand is afraid to lose and Gelfand does not believe that, if he loses, he will be able to get back into the match,” the former champion said after a wave of dreary draws. He further said,“Anand is sliding downhill these years. He wants to win, he knows he’s a better player but it’s not enough. It is the first time in history that an official world championship match has nothing to do with the title of the world’s best player.”
The second half suddenly came alive and sawtwo decisive results, with Anand and Gelfand winning one each. The scores are level at 4-4 after eight games.
“I believe Kasparov’s comments have ignited the competition,” says Grandmaster AbhijitKunte. “The sense of urgency and the fighting spirit shown in the last two games was previously missing.”
Kunte, however, thinks Anand has a clear edge over Gelfand. “I come to this conclusion because of the way Gelfand lost the eighth game. It would have shattered his morale. A defeat in 17 moves is not only rare but also unprecedented in a world championship match,” says the Pune-based GM.
Kunte also claims that the challenger would be under pressure. “He was uncharacteristically adventurous in Game 8 and that allowed Anand to play his natural game. After his win in the seventh game, he would have done well to play his waiting and positional game. Now the advantage rests with Anand,” the former national champion analyses.
Kunte says Anand will try to play out a draw with blacks in Game 9 on Wednesday and will go for the kill on Thursday. “I think Game 10 will be crucial to the outcome of the match,” asserts Kunte.
Pravin Thipsay sees another reason for Gelfand’s sudden meltdown. “He must have been too tired after the hard grind in the seventh game. He had to play accurately to earn that win and that must have been his undoing. At 43, it would not be easy to focus on the game so hard for so long.”
The 42-year-old Anand, a four-time world champion, has always hoped to have a challenger who would be older to him. The previous two challengers, Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov, were younger to the Indian maestro. As an opponent, Gelfand fits the bill for Anand.
“He always wished this and the wish has been fulfilled. Now it is up to him to take advantage of this,” says Thipsay, who too believes Game 8 has swung the match in Anand’s way.